Who has the longest nose of them all? Pinocchio from Tony Wolf Pinocchio and other tales 1990. Photo: janwillemsen via Flickr.
Long noses: Shell, GDF Suez, Samsung sweep Pinocchio Awards
19th November 2014
Who has the longest nose of them all? Worthy winners of France's fiercely contested 'Prix Pinocchio' 2014 were selected last night, recognising corporate greed, hypocrisy and malfeasance, based on a record vote since the awards began.
By setting concrete facts against companies' grand speeches, the Pinocchio Awards are showing this year again that these loopholes are allowing companies to operate with impunity.
The grand winners of the Pinocchio Awards 2014 were Shell, GDF Suez and Samsung, announced at a celebrity-studded ceremony in Paris.
This year there were nine nominees for voters to choose between, and a new record was set for the number of votes since the Awards began in 2008: over 61,000 in total.
"This demonstrates citizens' growing outrage about the severe impact multinational corporations' activities are having on society and the environment", commented Friends of the Earth France (FOEF) - which organises the Awards with Peuples Solidaires (ActionAid France) and CRID (Research and Information Centre for Development).
'Most aggressive' Shell - a richly deserved distinction
Shell won hands down for the Pinocchio award category 'One for all and all for me!', with 43% of the vote, for the development of shale gas projects across the entire world - except in Holland, its home country, which is subject to a fracking moratorium.
This prize is awarded to the company "which has the most aggressive policy in terms of appropriation, exploitation or destruction of natural resources."
While Shell, like other big oil majors, prides itself on conducting its operations in accordance with "ambitious principles", the reality observed on the ground, particularly in Argentina and the Ukraine, is quite different.
In these countries, reports FOEF, we see "lack of consultation with the population, wells drilled in a natural protected area and on farmland, toxic well-water reservoirs left out in the open, and lack of financial transparency, to name a few examples."
Number two in the category with 29% of the vote was the French bank Crédit Agricole, for its financing of Mountain-top removal coal mining in Appalachia, USA - providing finance to Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources. Banktrack has published a full dossier on the bank's activities.
GDF Suez - 'green bonds'
In the prestigious 'Greener than green' category - which rewards the company which has led "the most abusive and misleading communication campaign in regard to its actual activities", the Pinocchio award was received by GDF Suez with 42% of the vote for its 'green bonds', beating EDF and Pur Projet.
Last May, this French energy giant proudly announced that it had issued the biggest "green bond" ever made by a private company, collecting 2.5 billion Euros from private investors to finance its so-called clean energy projects.
However, on closer examination, no clear social or environmental criteria were associated with these 'green' bonds, and the company has not published a list of the projects it has financed.
It could even be using this money for destructive projects, such as large dams, like the one in Jirau (Brazil) that the company mentioned as an example. Furthermore, GDF Suez is continuing to invest heavily in fossil fuels.
Running up with a 31% share of the vote was the French parastatal energy giant EDF, recognising its construction of the Kolubara B 750MW coal-fired power station in Serbia - in direct contradiction of its declared "ambition for a diversified and decarbonised energy mix".
Samsung - 'dirty hands, full wallet'
Finally, with 40% of the vote, the Pinocchio award for the category 'Dirty hands, full wallet' - which honours the company with the most opaque policy at the financial level, in terms of lobbying or in its supply chain - was given to Samsung.
The award reflects the company's "disgraceful working conditions in its product-manufacturing factories in China: excessive working hours, pitiful wages and child labour, to cite just a few examples."
Despite repeated inquiries and questioning civil society, as well as the filing of a complaint in France, this technology market-leader persistently denies these accusations.
"The company should face up to reality and implement some practical measures to improve working conditions for Chinese factory workers and put an end to these violations of human rights", says FOEF.
It was closely followed by French oil company Perenco, with 31%, for its oil drilling in DRC Congo characterised by "the pillage of natural resources, financial opacity, environmental destruction and repression of dissent in local communities."
A powerful tool in holding corporations to account
By condemning numerous violations against human rights and the environment, the Pinocchio Awards have grown in importance since they were established in 2008, and they help put pressure on companies to make them change their practices.
The scale of the event and its role in the public debate surrounding CSR this year has forced all companies nominated for an award to speak out publicly on the facts that have been reported about them.
Juliette Renaud, Corporate Accountability Campaigner at Friends of the Earth France, says: "Just a year ago we were celebrating the proposal of a bill on the due diligence of multinational companies - but pressure from lobby groups kept the government inactive on the subject, and this law has still not been voted or even discussed in Parliament.
Fanny Gallois, Campaign Manager at Peuples Solidaires, added: "By setting concrete facts against companies' grand speeches, the Pinocchio Awards are showing this year again that these loopholes are allowing companies to operate with impunity in France and throughout the world."
The Pinocchio Awards are organised in a media partnership with Basta!, the Multinational Observatory and Real World Radio, who have published informative articles and interviews on each of the nominees.
More information: Prix Pinocchio.
Oliver Tickell edits The Ecologist.
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